Stories about the environment focused on the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Environment reporter, Bellamy Pailthorp.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington’s state park system is facing an emergency funding crisis. The Parks Commission will meet Tuesday to vote on a plan to immediately cut $11 million from the budget.

The crisis comes as sales of the new Discover Pass lag.

The Seattle City Council is considering a ban on thin single-use plastic bags at checkout stands. The ban will also include a pass-through fee of 5 cents for paper bags.

The council is holding a public hearing on the proposal tonight at 5:30

Washington's Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved a management plan for what one member called the most controversial and complex issue the Commission has ever dealt with: wolf management.

The number and distribution of breeding pairs in Washington's growing wolf population is key. The amended plan calls for four breeding pairs in Eastern Washington, four each in the North and South Cascades, and 3 more pairs anywhere in the state. If more are found, the plan calls for stepping up management actions, like moving wolves around or shooting animals who prey on cattle.

A federal judge in Seattle says Washington must restrict greenhouse gas emissions from the state's five oil refineries.

Associated Press

Supporters have offered $1 million for her release. Annual demonstrations have demanded her return to the Northwest.

Over the years, celebrities, schoolchildren and even a Washington state governor have campaigned to free Lolita, a killer whale captured from Puget Sound in 1970 and who has performed at Miami Seaquarium for the past four decades.

Pugest Sound Clean Air Agency

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency has issued its first burn ban of the season.

A large ridge of high pressure off the Pacific coast is bringing stagnant air conditions to the region.

A Stage 1 burn ban goes into effect at 5 p.m. today for Pierce and Snohomish counties and will stay in effect until further notice.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / Flickr

Sen. Maria Cantwell is calling for stronger communication between American and Canadian officials following the disclosure that Canada failed to reveal the results of tests that appear to show the presence of a potentially deadly salmon virus nearly a decade before a salmon-virus scare this fall.

This is the second time that Canadian officials have been accused of muffling a scientist’s findings concerning viruses and salmon.

Northwest News Network

TACOMA, Wash. – The cold nights we've been having are leading people to fire up their wood stoves and fireplaces. This also means we're in the season of the dirtiest air of the year in the Northwest.

Wood stoves are one of the biggest – if not the biggest – contributor to this problem in our area. Clean air agencies are going to greater lengths to pry old, polluting, uncertified wood stoves out of the fingers of homeowners.

Second set of 'climategate' emails hit the Web

Nov 22, 2011

In a repeat of 2009, a second set of stolen emails from climate scientists at major universities has been released to the public.

Cruise ships will be prohibited from discharging wastewater into a protected marine sanctuary off the outer coast of Washington state's Olympic Peninsula under new rules taking effect next week.

Gwen Harlow / Flickr

"Paper or plastic?"

Seattle wants to take that choice away in order to save the environment and money. The city council is considering a ban on single-use plastic bags, because they are harmful to marine wildlife as well as to recycling machinery.

cerclek / Flickr

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A federal court judge has upheld the endangered species listing of Alaska's Cook Inlet beluga whales.

The state of Alaska and others had sued to overturn the listing by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Residents who live on Highway 36 west of Eugene are waiting for the results of a Pesticide Exposure Investigation by the state of Oregon. They believe herbicide spraying by the timber industry is causing health issues in their communities.

For years, residents near Blachly and Triangle Lake have complained of pesticide drift from clear-cut sprays. But it wasn’t until last spring that they caught the attention of the state. In independent biological testing, more than 30 people from the area tested positive for the common timber industry herbicides Atrazine and 2,4,D.

Sugar beet seed is a rare bright spot for struggling grass-seed farmers. Farmer John Reerslev of Junction City says the GMO product provides a safe way to control weeds.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture held a hearing to consider the possible deregulation of biotech sugar beets, developed by agribusiness giant Monsanto.

"Hybrid sugar beet seed has always been the highest per acre net return on our farm. I had 120 acres two years ago on 6 percent of our land, but it was valued at 25 percent of our income. It’s a very important rotational crop," Reerslev said.

Catherine Anstett

Salmon spawning is at its peak this time of year and it’s possible to go to local creeks and culverts to watch the salmon, up close and personal. 

Now through early December is prime time to get a good look at chum salmon as they return for spawning around the Puget Sound. And, Piper’s Creek in Carkeek Park is one of the best places in town to see these big fish swimming in a natural environment. They can be so close you might catch a little splash. 

OLYMPIA, Wash. - You've probably seen plum parking spots set aside for electric cars, maybe even shaken your fist at an empty space. More than a thousand Northwest drivers have hit the road this year with the first mass market electric cars.

Many of them are letting researchers electronically track their charging and driving behavior. That data shows more than 80% of electric "fill ups" are happening not at those public charging points, but at home.

If you’re confused about what to do with the plastic bags you get at grocery stores, you’re not alone. 

Many people know that they’re bad for the environment and that they can be recycled, but how to recycle them is another question.

King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks

When you go to the grocery store, it’s easy to forget to bring a reusable bag with you.

But the consequences of just taking the plastic bags that are doled out at most grocery chains is devastating to the health of local waters and wildlife. That’s the message from Environment Washington – a group that has issued a renewed call for a ban on plastic at checkout stands in Seattle.

You might call it harnessing the power of the moon.

Ocean energy is electricity that is generated when the power of tides, waves and currents moves turbines and windmills. It’s an idea that’s caught on already in Oregon. And there are plans on the horizon to bring it to Washington. 

Idaho National Lab

The Idaho National Lab is monitoring 16 of its workers who were exposed to Plutonium 239. That isotope is used in nuclear weapons.

Derin / Flickr

This month, some Alaska Airlines flights will be flying on used cooking oil as they travel from Seattle to Portland and Washington D.C.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service / Flickr

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell is calling on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to independently confirm the presence of a deadly virus found in two Pacific salmon in British Columbia.

Washington Dept. of Ecology

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The Northwest is known for its big hydroelectric dams. But across the region there are also hundreds of smaller non-hydro dams. Some of them hold back water, but others retain dairy waste or sewage.

In Washington, the operators of these structures could soon pay more in annual fees to cover the cost of inspections.

Courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game

Biologists tracking a gray wolf from Northeastern Oregon say it has traveled more than 300 miles. The wolf crossed the Cascades and showed up in southwest Oregon not far from Crater Lake.

Courtesy of Ford

Seattle's Century Link Field is again the location for the unveiling of a new all-electric car. 

The Nissan Leaf debuted here nearly a year ago. Tomorrow morning there will be a demonstration of the plug-in technology at the charging stations near the stadium – to mark the opening of order banks for owning the new Ford electric vehicle. 

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

PRIEST RIVER, Idaho – A fight over less than an acre of land in a remote part of the Northwest could alter the way the government enforces environmental regulations across the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court this winter will hear a case brought against the EPA by Mike and Chantell Sackett of north Idaho.

JUNEAU, Alaska — The state of Alaska is suing to invalidate the results of a voter initiative that could stop a massive gold and copper mine near one of the world's premier salmon fisheries.

Residents of Lake and Peninsula Borough voted earlier this month to ban large-scale resource extraction that would "destroy or degrade" salmon habitat. The measure was aimed at the Pebble Mine development located near the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

Crews have blasted a hole in a nearly century-old hydropower dam in Washington's south Cascades today, marking another step in efforts to restore habitat for threatened and endangered fish in the Pacific Northwest.

Walter Siegmund / Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill in the U.S. House of Representatives would require the Obama Administration to sell off public lands, including parcels in the Northwest.

The issue got a hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C., just as some northwest lawmakers are pushing for wilderness protections on other lands.

D. Kvamme / PacifiCorp

Update: Watch the explosion and dam breach.

WHITE SALMON, Wash. – Demolition experts are rigging 700 pounds of dynamite today at Condit Dam in southwest Washington. Crews are scheduled to breach the aging hydropower dam on the White Salmon River around noon Wednesday.